Melbourne City win puts destiny in its own hands – almost

Their destiny is not quite back in their own control – Brisbane still has three games in hand – but Melbourne City’s 1-0 away win against championship-chasing Sydney FC gives John Van’t Schip’s side a much bigger say in how their A-League season will end.
Nanjing Night Net

On Friday night the Melbourne version of the Sky Blues pulled off an audacious smash-and-grab raid against the Sydney version of the Sky Blues, courtesy of unheralded front man James Brown’s calm finish in the final 10 minutes of a game in which the stakes were huge for both sides.

Had Sydney won they could have leapfrogged Wellington, even if only temporarily, and gone top of the table, setting themselves up for a grandstand finish to the season and holding out the prospect of a grand final in the Harbour City.

That’s still not impossible, of course, but as the games run down and other teams get better results it becomes more difficult.

For City, a defeat on Friday night would have been a body blow to finals ambitions that have been hanging by a thread for weeks as the Melbourne club spurned glorious opportunities to cement their spot in the top six.

They are now five points clear of Brisbane, who have three games in hand, including Sunday afternoon’s contest against Wellington. In theory, Brisbane could win all three and scoot four points clear of City, a gap which might prove insurmountable.

But that’s a big if, especially as next Saturday night at AAMI Park City host Brisbane. It’s a game that almost deserves the title of nine-pointer, rather than the traditional six-pointer, so important for both clubs are its ramifications.

A City win would not only stretch their advantage over the Queenslanders but deprive the Roar of one of those crucial games in hand.

Most coaches will tell you that it’s good to have matches up your sleeve, but it’s a double-edged sword: you have to win them to derive any benefit, and at this stage of the campaign, with their Asian Champions League campaign adding to their fixture pile-up, fatigue and world weariness could start to become an issue for the Roar.

After entertaining Wellington, the Queenslanders are due to face Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp on Wednesday before they travel to Melbourne for Saturday night’s special.  Five days later they are set to host Central Coast on April 2 before travelling to Seoul for a Champions League match against Suwon Bluewings on April 8. After that they are scheduled to return home via Adelaide, whom they face at Coopers Stadium on April 11.

So in an 18-day period Brisbane has to front up six times, including a lengthy return trip to South Korea.

It’s a big ask and it should stack the balls in City’s court – unless, of course, Van’t Schip’s side plays up to its reputation as a team that makes things much harder for itself than it needs to by drawing games it should win and losing matches it should get something out of.

City itself has to go on the road three times in its last five games – to Western Sydney, Adelaide and Perth – but they are over a five-week period. Aside from the home match against Brisbane which will do so much to determine their fate, City also host Wellington.

The fact that they were able to take the heat out of Sydney for 90 minutes and shut down the league’s second-highest scoring team (Sydney had notched 40 goals in 21 games before Friday night’s goalless effort) should give City plenty of confidence ahead of their travels.

Van’t Schip set up his side to be difficult to break down, with Erik Paartalu and Jonatan Germano forming a shield in front of a back four marshalled with courage and conviction by skipper Patrick Kisnorbo.

Kisnorbo doesn’t always get a lot of love from football purists, but he is always brave, tough and committed to the cause, and in City’s situation that is what is needed. If the rest of the side had played with his sort of fight for the rest of the season, Van’t Schip’s team might not be in its current situation. He had a terrific game on Friday night and will need to be in similar form for the rest of the campaign if the Manchester City owned club is to make the play-offs.

City have had a terrible run with injuries – Friday night’s goalscoring hero Brown is a case in point, having missed much of the season.

But the upside is that Van’t Schip has been able to take a long hard look at all of his squad and on Friday night gave two youngsters who had not been seen before, Stefan Zinni and Nicholas Symoey, a taste of first-team experience. Who knows if they yet might have a role to play in the final days of the season.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments are currently closed.